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Treatment for sexual pain in women

Many middle-aged or older women have gone to their doctors complaining of pain during intercourse, only to be told that the problem is “in their head”, that there is nothing physically wrong, or maybe that they just need to “relax”. But that advice is usually wrong: most of these women have a physical cause to their problem, and it is very treatable.

The cause is often “atrophic vaginitis” (AV), which is a thinning and dryness of the tissues of the vaginal wall, caused by the (normal) decrease in estrogen levels around the time of menopause. Other reasons for estrogen decrease include a temporary drop after giving birth or during breast-feeding. Certain medications, particularly chemotherapy, radiation treatments, or surgical removal of the ovaries can also lead to AV.

It’s estimated that about 50% of women will at sometime suffer from AV, yet, due to embarrassment or a belief the symptoms are just a part of aging, most do not get treatment. That is unfortunate, because without treatment, they may avoid intercourse, putting additional stress on their personal relationships as well as possibly losing self-esteem.

With decreased estrogen levels, the vaginal tissues may become inflamed and more susceptible to micro-tears during intercourse, leading to post-intercourse bleeding, pain, burning, and even shortening of the vaginal canal. Urinary symptoms such as painful urination, frequency, urgency, and urinary infections are common.

With AV the micro-environment of the vagina is altered. Normally populated with lacto-bacilli, the vaginal canal is slightly acidic, which helps prevent infection. With AV the acidic environment is lost, and the healthy bacteria are replaced with harmful bacteria and fungi, and a yellowish secretion or infection can result.

The goal of treatment is to return the vagina to a healthy micro-environment, and thicken the mucosal walls. Here are some treatment hints (and persistence is important—improvement may take weeks or longer):

1. Find a doctor who really understands the condition, probably a gynecologist, perhaps a female one!

2. The sooner you seek out treatment the better, but no matter how long you have suffered, or your age, you can be helped.

3. Topical estrogen helps in most cases, either an estrogen “ring” that can remain in place for three months, or a vaginal tablet or cream. There is some absorption of estrogen into the bloodstream, but it is much less than with oral estrogen (which may be indicated in some women, but requires a serious discussion of possible risks with your doctor).

4. A water-based lubricant, such as K-Y jelly should be used (by the partner also), or a brand-name vaginal moisturizer. A mild oil-based natural lubricant such as vitamin E, coconut, or olive oil might help at the very opening of the vagina to facilitate sexual insertion (note oily products inside the vagina can weaken condoms). You might ask your doctor for a manipulated compound.

5. Exercise helps, particularly pelvic floor exercises and Pilates, that increase blood flow to the area. Finally, regular sexual activity also increases the blood flow and helps keep the tissues flexible, preventing vaginal shrinkage.

Remember, no matter what your age, painless, pleasurable intercourse is your right!

Should you want to find a gynecologist or other specialist, you can do so through our main website: www.procuramed.com.

For further reading: Vaginal Atrophy: MayoClinic

Persistence is Key to Treating Sexual Pain

 

 

Treatment for sexual pain in women was last modified: August 10th, 2012 by

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